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International Plan to Protect Syrian Cultural Heritage

 

 

 

 DAMASCUS, (ST) - At the invitation of UNESCO and the contribution from the Swiss government, an international workshop was held recently in Jordan entitled  "Regional Training on Syrian Cultural Heritage, Treating the Issue of Illicit Trafficking". Present at the workshop were the Director-General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, Dr. Maumoon Abdul Karim, and members of the accompanying delegation.

A report by the Directorate of Antiquities and Museums said that the workshop conducted an objective discussion of the phenomenon of illicit trafficking of cultural property in general, and regional training on the protection of Syrian cultural heritage particularly it is threatened by serious risks because of the acts of vandalism and theft.

The axes of the workshop included the international and legal framework to combat illicit trafficking and the current reality of the Syrian antiques in addition to the regional and international cooperation for the protection of Syrian cultural property in Syria.

 

In the axis of the international legal framework to combat illicit trafficking, representatives of UNESCO offered a comprehensive review of the international legal framework for the protection of cultural heritage around the world and dealing with the phenomenon of illegal trade. The international legal norms, contained by the UNESCO Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Events of Armed Conflict, were introduced. The conferees emphasized that the damage to cultural property of any people means damage to the cultural heritage of all humanity.

 

The UNESCO Convention of 1970 was reviewed concerning the measures that must be taken to prohibit and prevent the import, export, transfer and ownership of the cultural property in an illegal way and the obligation of States concerned to protect cultural property, existing within their territories, of thefts and excavation work contrary to the law, export illegally and work to expand the frameworks of international cooperation in this domain because the protection of cultural property can not be viable only if it is organized at the national and international levels. 

The UNDRWA Convention of 1995also was reviewed, which is an important tool for the protection of cultural heritage and defining a mechanism to restore cultural property sold illegally. The convention also emphasizes the return of stolen cultural property and exported illegally and inciting international society to combat the phenomenon of illicit trafficking in cultural property.

 

About the current reality of the Syrian antiques "damages and protection", the Director General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria offered a comprehensive presentation entitled " Reality of antiquities in Syria since the beginning of the crisis until now and strategic protection".

He underlined that all Syrian museums' possessions are intact and safe, and drew underlined the need to distinguish between the damage in museums and the situation of archaeological sites that some suffer from abuse. He pointing out to the great efforts made by the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums in co-operation with the official authorities and local community to alleviate the damage as much as possible for cultural property. 

The Director General reviewed precautionary measures in the Syrian museums to ensure the protection of these museums and the damages that hit some archaeological sites in the governorates. He noted the importance of cooperation with all the parties and international organizations working in the cultural affairs for the protection and recovery of cultural heritage "taken out of Syria illegally".

He also spoke about the success of the national campaign launched by the Ministry of Culture and the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums. The campaign entitled "Syria my home" that contributed to alert citizens to the importance of cultural heritage and the need to protect and preserve it as a "major component of national identity and a source of pride."

 

In the area of regional and international cooperation for the protection of Syrian cultural property, the Director General of Antiquities and Museums talked about the impact of regional and international cooperation in the protection of cultural and humanitarian heritage and the importance of effective international and regional cooperation to contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage in Syria.

 Mr. Abdul Karim talked about the delay of international organizations of performing their duties in communicating with the Ministry of Culture and General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums in Syria. He pointed out to the facts about the damage and threats that hit the Syrian heritage.

He stressed the importance of addressing an appeal to the United Nations and governments to exclude the Syrian cultural heritage of the unfair international sanctions imposed on Syria and demanded to issue an international resolution of the Security Council to assist in the protection of Syrian cultural heritage and prevent illicit trafficking.

 Mr. Abdul Karim talked about the need and importance of foreign missions licensed to operate in Syria to hold activities and workshops with Syrian archaeologists to evaluate the damage hit the archaeological sites and search for ways to fix them. He also stressed the need to provide scientific and technical support to his directorate being the authorized official government body to protect and manage the Syrian cultural heritage.

At the conclusion of the workshop, participants stressed their keenness to continue cooperation with the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums and willingness to provide assistance by all possible means to protect Syrian cultural property from the dangers that threaten it. Representatives of international organizations participating in the workshop appreciated the efforts exerted by the bodies concerned in the cultural affairs in Syria and precautionary procedures contributed to maintaining the treasures in museums.

During the workshop, discussions focused on the measures that can be taken to combat illicit trafficking and the current needs and threats to the protection of cultural heritage in Syria and the role that could be played by the international community represented by the international cultural organizations  such as Interpol, international customs, procedures that can be carried out by neighboring countries to help ease the risk to the Syrian cultural heritage, how to assess the damage, recovery mechanisms and prospects of regional and international cooperation in this regard. 

At the end of the workshop a set of proposals and recommendations were provided including the preparation of an international plan by all parties involved in the workshop to work with the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums to defend and protect the Syrian cultural heritage. A plan was prepared including two levels of action and mechanisms of action , medium-range and long-range. Asking the Security Council to adopt an international resolution to prevent trafficking in stolen Syrian cultural property during the current crisis and the work to recover the Syrian cultural property.

Present at the workshop were representatives of most the international institutions and bodies working on the protection of cultural heritage around the world including UNESCO, ICOM,  International Council of Monuments and Sites, International Center for the Study, Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, the International Committee of the Blue Shield, Interpol, International Customs, French and Italian police to combat illicit trafficking in cultural property, most important foreign archaeologists licensed exploration in Syria and representatives of a number of neighboring countries. 

The participation of the Syrian delegation was the first international meeting since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, where the delegation discussed the threats and risks that face the Syrian cultural heritage, ways and mechanisms of activating international cooperation to reduce their effects.

Sh. Kh

 

 

 

Over 7000 Books on Show at Arab Book Fair in Lattakia

 LATTAKIA, (ST) - More than 7000 books, dealing with literature, philosophy, history, politics, education, science, heritage, society, art and human resources development, are on show at the Arab Book Fair in Lattakia.

The month-long fair, which was organized by al-Majd Publication and Distribution House, is being held within the framework of Al-Assad Culture House program for this month aiming to encourage reading.

Eskandar Mayya, the head of the Directorate of Culture in Lattakia, said the event is an invitation to all social categories to return to the world of paper books. It is an opportunity to revive the relation between individuals and paper books, as digital reading has overwhelmed the cultural scene in most societies.  

According to Mayya, the fair, which includes a big number of diverse publications that satisfy people's cultural taste, encourages adopting reading as a cultural behavior to enrich knowledge.

On the obstacles facing the process of booth distributing and reading books, The Fair's organizer Hassan Younis said reactivating reading needs effective contribution by concerned cultural parties, which, according to him, have not so far able to take a tangible step to promote reading.

Younis pointed out that modern literary production doesn't receive the moral and financial revenues it deserves. Besides, shedding light on the books and writers has been subjugated to several considerations which may not necessarily include invention.

"These are among the problems which led many authors to abandon writing, thereby causing a setback to the Arab book and a push forward to translations," Younis added.

Ranim Haydar, a university student,  said she always visits book fairs held regularly in the governorate so as to keep in touch with the most important and up-to date publications.

She added that most fairs offer discounts to encourage buying books, pointing out that she is mostly interested in the books which deal with bio energy and self-skill development.

 

H. Mustafa   

"Art and Invention" honored at Damascus Citadel

Wonderful oil paintings of seventeen plastic artists belonging to different artistic schools decorated the walls of Damascus Citadel within the framework of the two-week  "Art and Invention" Forum, which was concluded yesterday.

The paintings, which resisted blackness by the using of bright colors, depicted life, beauty, love, history andthe homeland.

Artists Nazir Ismael, ShafeekIshti, Anwar al-Rahbi, Mohammad al-Wahibi, Abdalla Abu Asali, MowaffakMakhoul, Nabil al-Samman, George Miro, Sawsan al-Zou'bi, Ibrahimal-Hameed, FawazSalama, AhdRajjoub, Naser al-Sha'al, JumanaJabr, QahtanTalla', HaskouHaskou and FouadDahdouh took part in the forum, which was held in cooperation between the Directorate of Fine Arts of the Culture Ministry and the Applied Arts Institute.

The Culture Ministry held a ceremony on Monday to honor the participants in the forum in a bid to support the artists and urge them to give their best.

LubanaMushaweh, the Minister of Culture, said during the ceremony that that the exhibited panels reflected the fact that the Syrian artists are deeply-rooted in their homeland and they feel pain and bitterness for the tragic events in Syria.

The minister promised that the artistic works will be exhibited at the Modern Art Museum,which the ministry plans to open soon to host plastic artists' masterpieces.

According,ImadKashout, Director of the Fine Arts Directorate, the forum aimed at establishing dialogue and interaction between the artists and the people to enhance the artistic taste, particularly because the participants have distinguishedimprints at the Syrian and international artistic arenas.

He pointed out that the directorate intends to hold other activities dealing with different areas of art in a number of Syrian governorate in order to allow all creative persons to contribute to enhancing the plastic art movement so as to keep its brightness and to maintain the Syrian art as an eternal beacon to the world.

In a  statement on behalf of the participating artists, Nabil al-Sammanhighlighted the artists hope that Syria will surpass the current painful era.

"During the hard times, when Takfiris and narrow-minded people seek destruction, things will have different meanings and light becomes brighter," al-Samman said, stressing that Syria's future will be to those honest people who kept patient and tolerated pain, so as their homeland be safe.

Artists Anwar al-Rahbi hailed the Culture Ministry's keenness to hold such important forums which brings together different artistic experiences within a harmonic work.

For his part, AhdRajjoub, whose one-color mural attracted many visitors, said he abandoned colors in his panel as it depicted the tragedy, which the Syrians are living and which victimized hope-loving people.

Other artists affirmed the importance of the forum in presenting the artists' views on the current situation in the country,  in shedding light on the many sides of beauty and in highlighting the Syrian artists' determination to challenge the difficult circumstances.

H. Mustafa

Syrian-Lebanese Cooperation to Restore Stolen Antiquities to Syria

DAMASCUS, (ST) - The General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums (GDAM) and the Lebanese Antiquities Establishment have agreed to officially restore stolen Syrian archeological pieces which were recently seized in Lebanon to Syria.

Ma'moun Abdul Karim, the GDAM's Director said in a statement to SANA on Saturday that the Lebanese authorities have foiled an attempt by thieves to sell stolen Syrian archeological pieces, including 11 half statues from the Roman age stolen from Palmyra graves, Roman age glass works and Islamic sculpts in addition to other valuable pieces .

Thieves were arrested by the Lebanese security forces on Thursday, according to SANA.

Abdul Karim pointed out that these pieces were put for sale by the thieves in an area near Beirut.  

A British "Sunday Times" reporter had impersonated a trader of antiquities and got information about the existence of these stolen Syrian pieces of antiquities in Lebanon. She informed the Interpol,  which in turn supplied the GDAM with some data about and photos of the antiquities. As a result, the GDAM asked the Lebanese authorities to seize these pieces.

Abdul Karim pointed out that by arresting members of the thieves network, the archeological pieces have become at the disposal of the Lebanese authorities. A group of Lebanese archeological experts have examined the pieces and assured the GDAM that they are the same pieces which were stolen from Syria.

Abdul Karim thanked the Lebanese concerned bodies for their efforts to combat illicit trafficking of Syrian antiquities and to help Syria restore its archeological heritage.

H. Mustafa 

“Protecting Our Cultural Heritage Against Illicit Trafficking, a National Duty: Mushaweh

“Our great cultural heritage is currently, more than ever, being exposed to a serious threat that endangers our national identity, Culture Minister Lubana Mushaweh has said, stressing that “it is our national and humanitarian duty to protect this heritage against stealing, smuggling and illicit trafficking.

Mushaweh was speaking during a workshop held on Sunday by the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums (GDAM) at Damascus National Museum to tackle the issue of illicit trafficking of cultural properties.

The workshop, which was held under the patronage of the Culture Ministry, aimed to discuss ways of fighting illicit trafficking of antiquities, building abilities and enhancing awareness about preserving cultural properties from threats.

The historical and cultural importance of smuggled Syrian antiquities, the effectiveness of the local and international laws, which control illicit trafficking of antiquities, under the current international developments, besides the role of the Syrian government in disseminating awareness about preserving the country’s national heritage and antiquities are the main topics listed on the workshop’s agenda.

According to minister Mushaweh, the workshop, which is being held under the critical circumstances Syria is passing through, comes within the framework of the ministry’s cooperation with concerned government bodies to put an end to the danger threatening Syrian antiquities.

She pointed out that the great efforts being exerted by the archaeological institutions can’t stand alone in the face the vicious aggression and dangerous violations targeting the Syrian antiquities and archeological sites.

“Unjust excavations in some Syrian archeological sites left more than 300 holes that led to the destruction of some archeological buildings dating back to the Hellenistic age in the 3rd century BC,” Mushaweh said, stressing that these aggressions necessitate from concerned parties to unify efforts to alleviate losses and avoid more serious aggressions.

“The Syrian cultural heritage is a source of pride to all humanity, said the minister, stressing that the international community must shoulder the responsibility towards supporting Syrian archeological institutions to help them face the barbaric aggression against this heritage.

Concluding her statement, the minister thanked the archeologists and researchers who back the ministry’s effort to combat the illicit trafficking of the Syrian antiquities and who spare no effort at international scientific forums to disseminate awareness about the reality of events in Syria and uncover the conspiracy which targets the Syrian cultural heritage.

Director of the GDAM Maamoun Abdul Karim said that stealing and smuggling antiquities is an old problem which threatens Syria’s unique heritage, pointing out that Syria has lost a precious part of its heritage as traders and smugglers of cultural properties were active during the past few decades in violating cultural and archeological places in the country.

He added Syria was among the first countries which were keen to enhance international cooperation to combat illicit trafficking of human and cultural heritage and to protect cultural properties in armed conflicts.

Experts participating in the workshop highlighted the GDAM’s experience in preserving Syria’s diverse cultural heritage and called for drawing up an integrated national strategy in coordination with government parties, civil society organizations and individuals in order to protect Syria’s cultural heritage which was accumulated over long ages.

H. Mustafa